|Happy belated b'day - Dad as I like to remember him
I'll let the lawyers and the politicians work it out. For me, I can't figure out how they got it so wrong. As you all know, my dad was a railroad engineer. I used to know quite a lot about about trains since they're trains. And every kid (and many adults) loves trains. Even if he didn't 'live the train culture' (it was merely a job to him), he would always tell me what I wanted to know about the railroad. And I listened when he talked to mom. A few times over the years he let me ride with him on the engine (and once on a caboose - fun stuff! Think an RV on rails). When I was in college, he even let me try my hand with running one, albeit in a small local train yard at about 5mph and no cars attached.
Now, trains are actually a delicate thing. Yes, they're big and scary. But the whole thing is a masterclass in physics. For instance, the balance of wheels on rails is a precarious one. Almost no train in the history of trains ever derailed because it hit something like a car or truck. The actual collision is not the problem. The reason why you'll see a derailment connected to a crossing accident is that a piece of the torn up vehicle became wedged between the wheels and rail, bending the rail out, and leading to the cars or engines jumping the track.
Like flying, starting and stopping is the most dangerous part. Start the train wrong, and you could tear a car in half. Stop it wrong and some of the cars may not get the memo in time, resulting in a pile up. And of course, derailments are always a concern, from start to finish and in between.
I've heard on the news about some overheated bearings causing the derailment. That could be. Though how they missed it I don't know. That's called a hot box, and railroads have 'hot box detectors' up and down the lines. That was one of the more irksome parts of the job IIRC. It wasn't unusual for a detector to trip even if there was nothing there. Nonetheless, each time it did, the train had to stop and someone (the engineer being the boss of the train crew, it usually wasn't my dad) had to walk the length of the train to see what happened.
That's often how things on the railroad work, by the way. If there is a problem with the detector, it triggers. Like railroad crossing lights, they're set to go off if there are any problems. So even if there was a problem with this detector, it should have triggered. I'd think the technology is even more advanced now then back in the day.
So no clue how that could cause the derailment unless someone messed up royally somewhere.
As for the lack of knowledge about the cargo, that's unbelievable. Each train car my dad hauled was on a list containing all the needed specs. Some trains were special trains made up for specific cargos. The ones with anything more dangerous than sponges had special information attached. On the lines through Ohio my dad worked on, one of the trains was affectionally called 'The Bomb.' About 100 of 150 cars or so of explosive and hazardous liquids. Not only were the materials an issue, but hauling them wasn't easy. Tank cars in general were tough to control. If you've ever carried a large container of liquid that began sloshing back and forth, you know why. Imagine a 30 ton car with tens of thousands of gallons that begin sloshing back and forth if not controlled. Then imagine dozens of such cars sloshing at different rates.
That's why the safety protocols around such loads were Himalayan in scope. And not just the train crew, but the various railroad yards and stations, and all locations the train would travel through were made aware.
How with all of that the response was 'Gee, we didn't think there were hazardous chemicals' just doesn't sound real. What actually happened and why I don't know. But that's why this is becoming a news story even on international news. Mixed with continuing 'nothing to see here folks' in the face of citizens developing all manner of ailments, the whole thing stinks to high heaven.
Oh, and one shout out. Do engineers and train crews a favor and don't try to beat trains at railroad crossings. It's stressful for them since there's little they can do but watch. Even though my dad had learned how to mitigate damage at crossings, if someone darted in front of him at the last, he couldn't do anything. Remember, rule of thumb: It usually takes the length of the train to stop, and some trains can be over a mile long. All accidents were stressful, even though he was seldom in danger (gasoline tank trucks being an exception, and the bogeyman of railroad engine crews). When the accidents were fatalities, it always weighed on him. The worst I recall was a car with four women leaving a party who at the last minute darted around the crossing gates. All four were killed instantly. It was the only time I remember Dad having to take time off from work. So next time, just wait a couple minutes. Nothing is so important as to not make it to where you're going.
|Results are almost always the same
BTW, just for fun, the worst cargo to haul per my dad? Plastic pellets. That's because there was no air between those things and it was 100% dead weight, to the tune of hundreds of tons. That's a car that needed TLC or you could have those torn up derailed trains pretty fast.